Bart waking up

Anti-Virus, Week 9 – Routine Maintenance

It only took nine weeks of quarantine, but I think I finally managed to settle into a morning routine.

I’m a routine kind of guy. I get more done more consistently if I do it the same way every morning. The only problem is that I notoriously and spectacularly fall out of routine on a regular basis, and when I do, it’s difficult to reestablish. In fact, I’ve tried to write a morning routine blog on at least three separate occasions, but every time I start writing the blog, or almost write the blog, I fall out of the routine and feel like I’m not qualified to write it. Even this time, now that I’m finally writing it for real, I biffed the routine twice in the last four days, so I really need to step it up this week and reestablish before it all falls apart. I hope that actually writing this blog will help hold me accountable, as well.

A lifetime ago, near the end of 2018, I blogged about transitioning from a night owl to a morning person to get more, better work done. I’d like to tell you this was a super responsible and conscious decision on my part. The truth is it kind of happened by accident because I was so tired and stressed by the end of the day that I started going to bed earlier than usual. As a result, I also started waking up earlier, and I suddenly had this chunk of time in the mornings that wasn’t there before, that I could use to exercise, write, draw, or do other responsible things. I liked it so much that it eventually became routine.

Unfortunately, I’ve fallen out of that routine a few (dozen) times since then. Best laid plans and all that. It happens. Even your most obnoxious go-getter has an off-morning where they wake up at 9:30 instead of 5. Not that I’ve ever done that. On the other hand, I have my best days when I get up on time and follow my routine to the letter, so I recommend putting one of these things together if you don’t have one already. If not a routine, at least take some time the night before to plan what you need to get done the next morning. And, if you do have a routine, does it consist of the right things?

Now, you might ask yourself, why should I be seeking advice on a morning routine from this guy, a man who fell asleep on his dining room floor after waking up early to feed the cats. Well, that is a bit disconcerting, but in my defense, I was really tired that day.

However, I can also tell you that when I got up on time this morning and followed my routine the way I’m supposed to, I already accomplished something before anyone else in the house had even stirred, and was able to start my day on a high note, rather than trying to find that high note when buffeted by distractions, responsibility, online chatter, or other unexpected circumstances ready and waiting to throw me off-course.

So, here’s how I tackle my mornings. Note that this is not an unwavering list of “definitely do these specific things”—rather, this is more of a rough guideline for how I get done what I’d like to get done before the rest of the world wakes up. My goals and responsibilities are probably different from yours, so I don’t want to bog you down with the specifics of what I do and make you feel like that’s what you need to do, too.

Get Up

Hey, this probably seems obvious, but exiting your bed is critical. Don’t hit your snooze button. Don’t do it. If your alarm is set for 6 and you wake up at 5:59, don’t push your alarm back to 7. Get up. Coward. Whatever small amount of extra sleep you get won’t make a difference. Instead, start your day with purpose and enthusiasm. The actual time doesn’t even matter; a person who means to wake up at 4am but doesn’t make it out of bed until 5:30 isn’t earning any bragging rights over a person who means to wake up at 6am and actually does it every day. Be consistent.

No Social Media. At least not yet.

Unless you have a highly positive and curated feed, don’t check social media first thing in the morning. Somebody will be out there sharing a distracting ranking of the best Mega Man games, or a downer of a news story, or they’ll be trying to pick a fight with somebody, and it’ll start your day on a negative note. Not only that, you might get lulled into the infinite scroll, and all of a sudden 20 or 30 minutes have gone by and you’re still sitting on the toilet, looking at your phone. Weren’t you supposed to be productive this morning?

Don’t check it. Wait until later, or don’t check it at all. Or are you not in charge of your own life?

On that note, also avoid your email, texts, subspace communiqués, and so on.

Unless they are about something really important (like maybe a Neutral Zone infraction by the Romulans), they can wait. Plus, there’s no rush to respond, as the person on the other end is probably still asleep in their comfy, comfy bed. Goodnight, everybo—no, wait!

Treaty of Armens
No! Do not read this right after waking up.

Do something for you.

Before diving into your day job, chores, or other responsible things, do something that is important to you and that you enjoy, something you may not have a chance to do once the rest of the world wakes up and places demands on your time. Explore a hobby, further your side hustle, exercise…take some time to engage in something you are passionate about. Even if you don’t get a lot done, you’ll be able to shift into your daily must-do’s having already accomplished something you enjoy, which should leave you feeling energized and full of positivity as you tackle the rest of your day.

Personally, I go for exercise first thing. It tends to be the thing that is most often neglected (perhaps even more so than writing or drawing!), so I focus on it, first and foremost. If I have time left before needing to move on with the rest of my day, I’ll squeeze in some writing or drawing, too.

Breakfast

If you’re like me, you think you can get away with not eating breakfast. Then, you become a total crank at around 8:30 or 9, do something regrettable like yell at somebody, and then the ensuing guilt makes the rest of the day a struggle. So, get yourself something good to eat for breakfast. Hey! No! Not that donut. Yes, I know it’s good, but that’s not what I meant. I meant good for you. I’ve become an oatmeal-with-peanut-butter fanatic over the last year and a half or so. Oatmeal is clean carbs, decent protein (plus what I get from the peanut butter), and it generally keeps me full until lunch. But listen, I’m not a nutritionist. I don’t know what breakfast food is going to be best for you. If you like coffee, that’s okay, too. Just make sure to drink plenty of water, as well.

Must-Do’s/Starting Your Day

Okay. You got out of bed. You got something done for yourself. You ate breakfast, and haven’t wasted half your morning on the socialz media. By now, you should feel like you’ve already been awake for four hours, even if you haven’t, and you’re ready to take care of your morning chores, personal hygiene, day job, or whatever responsibilities or challenges await you throughout the rest of your day. Now, the important part:

Do this again tomorrow.

So, you followed your routine today. You follow it again tomorrow, that’s two in a row. You do it one more time, that’s called a streak, and you’re on your way. Try to build more and more momentum with each day. Eventually, you might even get used to it, and it just becomes a part of you. Lastly:

If you screw up, pick yourself up and try again.

Things happen. Maybe your daughter was inexplicably awake and screaming for three hours in the middle of the night. Maybe you stayed up all night playing SimCity 2000, even though you know you shouldn’t have. Maybe you had to go out of town and you’re out of your element. Unexpected things are going to happen, and they will mess up your routine. Don’t worry about it. Just pick things up again the next day. The more you stress, the more likely you are to lose your motivation to continue. You’ll be fine. Trust me.

Thanks for reading!